Neurotech symposium features Brain Prize winners

By: Linda B. Glaser,  AS Communications
Wed, 09/14/2016

Interested in learning how the brain works?

Some of Cornell’s best scientists studying the brain will gather Sept. 29 for the Inaugural Cornell Neurotech Mong Family Foundation Symposium. The symposium features three alumni winners of the 2015 Brain Prize – Winfried Denk, Ph.D. ’89, Karel Svoboda ’88 and David Tank, M.S. ’80, Ph.D. ’83 – as well as award-winning Cornell faculty who will share how they are exploring the brain using the most modern, innovative technologies.

Talks begin at 10 a.m. in Room G10 Biotechnology and conclude at 5 p.m. with a public reception. The symposium is free and the public is invited.

“Cornell has been at the forefront of ways to explore the brain,” says Joseph Fetcho, co-director of Cornell Neurotech and professor of neurobiology and behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences. “This symposium is a great opportunity for anyone interested in the brain to find out what we’ve been learning about it and how technology is advancing our understanding.”

“The speakers showcase Cornell’s outstanding contributions in tool development for neuroscience, past and present,” said Chris Xu, the Mong Family Foundation Director of Cornell Neurotech – Engineering and professor of applied and engineering physics in the College of Engineering. “We have an excellent group of speakers, and the talks will be broadly accessible for students, faculty and staff. This symposium is truly interdisciplinary and will be interesting not just to biologists but also to chemists, physicists and engineers.”

The 1 million euro Brain Prize, the largest in neuroscience, was awarded to the Cornell alumni speakers (and Arthur Konnerth, Technical University Munich) for their groundbreaking work with two-photon microscopy, which was invented at Cornell 26 years ago. The three are all members of the National Academy of Science. Denk (Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology) will speak on his work in understanding mouse brains; Svoboda (Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Janelia) will share his research on how neural circuits operate during behavior; Tank (Princeton University) will discuss his findings on what neural circuits do during decision-making.

Featured Cornell faculty include two recent winners of the National Institutes of Health Director’s New Innovator Awards, which provide up to $1.5 million over five years for innovative, high-impact projects. Melissa Warden, assistant professor of neurobiology and behavior, will share her research on what the brain does while deciding whether to “seek or flee”; Jesse Goldberg, assistant professor of neurobiology and behavior, will discuss how singing birds (and probably humans) learn through practice.

Nozomi Nishimura, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, is a recipient of a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award. She will discuss her research into the causes of cognitive dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease.

The symposium is supported by a multimillion-dollar seed grant from the Mong Family Foundation through Stephen Mong ’92, MEN ’93, MBA ’02, to Cornell Neurotech. The gift is intended to seed collaborative efforts across campus at the interface of technology and brain, as well as bring individuals at the forefront of neurotechnology to campus through the Cornell Neurotech Mong Family Foundation Symposium.

The complete schedule of symposium talks:

This story also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.